|March 11, 2011|
|Action, Science Fiction
Rated PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language
|Battle: Los Angeles
Am I alone in thinking (if films have it right), that humans are ill-equipped for battling aliens from another planet? Case in point, “Battle: Los Angeles” depicts the armed forces and their attempts to stop an alien invasion. That is not the only example, however. “Skyline” and “District 9” are recent examples and even back to the days of “Independence Day” show that aliens do not have a soft spot for humans and if they decide to take over our planet, we are helpless.
Watching the pure destruction in “Battle: Los Angeles” (which is just what the title explains it to be), really gives you an ache for how fragile our existence really is. Compared to the universe, we are but a small speck of dust. Thinking that we are the only living beings among the vast galaxies is ill-advised. Perhaps this is the reason so many films portray the coming of aliens: a way of humans dealing with the unknown. But I like to think that the filmmakers are creating these science fiction, action films to better prepare the human race. To put it into people’s minds so that if it does happen, it is not a complete surprise.
Not that there is much we can do to prepare (or maybe there is planning in Area 51 in which case, thank goodness!) but if aliens did decide to attack and were as advanced as we assume that they might be, God help us all.
“Battle: Los Angeles” does make a good case for our Army being able to take the creatures down. In the film, the alien invasion is a purging of human life in order to take Earth’s water supply (due to a lack of surface water on other planets). What ensues is absolute destruction.
The film’s entire armed forces element feels like a desperate attempt at alluding to classic war films like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Black Hawk Down”, without actually holding the impact of those memorable films. There was little to no impact in what was occurring along the ride. In “Independence Day”, they figured out a way to beat the alien mother ship halfway through the film and followed that progression. But we still got battle sequences, we still got to know the characters, and in the end, “Independence Day” is the go-to film for alien invasion flicks.
Building moments within a film is key to gaining the suspense of your audience. Making those moments count is even more exhilarating. When a lead character dies, he takes half the war with him. Obviously, this is not the case in reality, but if we want to actually see men and women die for our country, we can join the armed forces or watch more documentaries like “Restrepo”. Instead we go to “Battle: Los Angeles” to be entertained. But lacking those key, impactful moments to make us care, the film falls flat.
The music was there, the motives were right, the graphics stole the show, but in the end, when men and women died for their country in the film, it was menial and almost insignificant. There needed to be the change of tides moments. Rather, we had to wait until the end and at times, well into the film, felt as those this film could simply end with the aliens destroying the characters we were supposed to care about. Maybe that makes it more realistic, but I would rather have blockbuster hope and action.
The fact of the matter is films need to quit trying to be “Independence Day”. Unless they know without a shadow of a doubt that they will blow that 4th of July film completely out of the water, they need to stop. “Skyline” was no good because the heart was not there and being in one hotel the entire film does not work for a global disaster movie. “Battle: Los Angeles” used media sources nicely to spread the word of global attacks, but it did not have the same all-encompassing feel as the untouchable “Independence Day”.
Aaron Eckhart holds the film together nicely, as does Michelle Rodriguez, but otherwise the characters fall off into the unrecognizable (not that this would make much of a difference in the final product). The characters (even Eckhart’s) came off flat and generic, and their personal problems appeared insignificant to the global catastrophe at hand. Granted I have never been in the armed forces, but there is always a respect towards higher-ups no matter what. Their beef against Eckhart is shallow and, after finding out the truth behind it (which there really is nothing to it…), the whole scenario comes off laughable.
Currently living in Los Angeles, the best part of the film was seeing the graphics mess with the surrounding area. Most of the film takes place on Santa Monica Beach and around Downtown. Graphics have definitely come a long way since “Independence Day” but watch it again, and “ID4” really wasn’t that far off from current standards. In the end, if you are from the Los Angeles area, simply seeing your city in the movies is worth viewing the film alone. However, on a story standpoint, the film should have been a video game (“Homefront” but with aliens invading instead of Koreans) and the story would have had more success.
Once the writing departments improve, science fiction, alien invasion flicks may be able to compete with films like “Independence Day”. But currently, the state of alien invasion films is bleak. Give me moments like Will Smith punching an alien in the face. Give me Jeff Goldblum quoting Elvis Pressley on an alien mother ship. Give me Bill Pullman delivering the best speech to come out of a film since the days of James Stewart and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”. Without these key, impactful moments, audiences will be imagining the better alien invasion films and miss the ones right in front of them.